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Nelson-Henry scores 31 as Penn beats La Salle, 80-64

Darien Nelson-Henry has had some moments at Penn before.

However, he's never had one like he did against La Salle on Wednesday night.

Scoring in a variety of ways around the basket and with his midrange game, Penn's 6-foot-11 senior center had a career night for the Quakers at the Palestra, posting career highs in points (31) and rebounds (14) to help surprising Penn to an 80-64 rout of La Salle in the first Big Five game of the season.

"I don't think any of us were happy about the way we played in the Washington game," Nelson-Henry said of the Quakers' 104-67 beating in their last outing. "I think everybody wanted to make a point and just show that we're capable of by playing to the best of our ability - and I think we did."

Nelson-Henry finished the game 14 for 19 from the field. He also mixed in a pair of blocked shots. Sam Jones scored 18 for Penn on 8-for-8 shooting, including 4-for-6 from the arc.

The Explorers (3-1) were led by Cleon Roberts' 20 points. Jordan Price, who entered the game leading the nation in scoring (29.3 ppg.), never really impacted the game and finished with 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

Penn (4-1) fed off Nelson-Henry's energy. When the Quakers they fell behind by 10 points in the first half, he played a huge role to pull them to within 32-29 by the break.

And in the second half, when he made 8 of 9 shots from the field and scored 18 points, Penn fed off him even more. The Quakers outscored the Explorers 51-32 in the second half. And once they built the lead to double figures midway through the second half, it pretty much stayed there.

"In the second half, we got blown out by a lot," said La Salle coach John Giannini, who shared the blame for his team's lackluster defense. "We need to guard the ball better and do on-the-ball drills. And I need to coach that much better because our players are better than that."

But it really came down to Nelson-Henry's dominance inside.

"Really, I should have doubled the big guy inside," Giannini said. "The big guy was so good and we knew he was good. We tried not to let him get the ball - and that was the focal point of how we were going to guard him."